Molecular Biosystems Research Group (MBRG)

Current research lies within the field of molecular biosystems, this means research in the interface between biological chemistry, -omics technologies (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics), and systems biology. During recent years MBRG has mainly been engaged in projects from the following main research areas:
  • Bioinformatics
  • Algorithm development and big data analysis
  • Marine bacterial genomics and metagenomics
  • Marine bioprospecting and molecular biotechnology
  • Gene regulation and communication networks in marine bacteria

The Molecular Biosystems Research Group (MBRG) constitutes three faculty members (Head of MBRG Prof. Nils-Peder Willassen, Prof. Peik Haugen, and associate Prof. Kåre Olav Holm) and a varying number of researchers, post docs and students (see Members), and is organized at Department of Chemistry. Currently MBRG is hosting the Center for Bioinformatics (SfB), co-hosting the Norwegian Structural Biology Centre (NorStruct), is engaged in the Center for Research-based Innovation (MabCent) and is partner in the national BioStruct PhD schoool.

The expertise of MBRG researchers and students is broad, covering genomics/metagenomics, next generation sequencing, bioinformatics, proteomics/MS, recombinant expression techniques, protein engineering, and biophysical and biochemical characterization of proteins. MBRG has established a large collection of environmental samples from the Arctic (sediments, biota & sea water) as well as culture collection of more than fifteen hundred bacterial isolates. MBRG researchers have previously been involved in the development of enzymes that are now on the market – DNA modifying enzymes, nucleases and proteinases. Finally, MBRG has a long track record in academic publications as well as successful collaboration with industry.



One of the goals for the research group is to build and deploy computerized pipelines for storage, preprosessing, analysis, visualization and management of marine microbial genomics and metagenomics data. Two pipelines has been developed; GENO-pipe a pipeline for assembly, annotation analysis, visualization of genomics and transcriptomics data.  META-pipe; a pipeline, based upon Genopipe, for metagenomics/metatranscriptomics data, which can be used for mining of putative gene products and pathways, but also for exploring biodiversity. 

Algorithm development and big data analysis

Development of algorithms, software solutions and e-infrastucture for marine genomics and metagenomics data is currently a priority area in our lab. Marine bacterial genomics and metagenomics produce a large amount of high-dimensional data resulting from sequencing, mapping and genomics analyzing. These data require pre-processing, storing, and processing. Developing efficient algorithms is thus crucial to handle these data. This also includes integrating big data solutions which have become dominant features of genomics research with all the support they give.

Marine bacterial genomics and metagenomics

With the new technologies and cheaper prices genome sequencing has become an integrated part of the study of marine microorganisms, and thousands of bacterial genomes are currently available in ENA (the European Nucleotide Archive). We use a MiSeq Illumina technology platform (BB-Lab) to sequence an increasing number of bacterial genomes and environmental samples (i.e., metagenomes) for different purposes, e.g., for bioprospecting, taxonomic classification or to study mechanisms for bacterial diseases in marine animals.

Marine bioprospecting and molecular biotechnology
Marine bioprospecting describes the search for valuable biologically active compounds from marine environments. Our goal is to find cold-adapted enzymes with useful and unique features for the high-value market. Enzymes that are currently being characterized in the lab are derived from metagenomic DNA isolated from Arctic environmental samples. We have been involved in the development of cold-adapted enzymes that are now on the market, and a number of new enzymes are being investigated for their potential as new products. New and improved bacterial expression hosts for enzymes with extreme properties are also being sought.

Gene regulation and communication networks in marine bacteria
The molecular mechanisms of diseases on Atlantic fish (cod and salmon) that are caused by Gram-negative bacteria (e.g., different species of vibrios and moritellas) are largely unknown. Based on knowledge from the literature, and our own studies we know that these bacteria communicate via small molecules. We use classical microbiology, genetics, biochemical methods, molecular biology, "high-troughput" -omics technologies, and bioinformatics to provide more insights into gene regulation, bacterial communication networks and their mechanisms for virulence.